I slept surprisingly well considering my butt almost hit the floor when I laid down on the bed in my little, high-ceilinged hotel room. Along with the free breakfast of egg, breads and tea, came a phone call from the Manager. When I told him I intended to check out after only one night, a series of questions lead me to reveal my travel plans booked the day before. I didn't know much, but I knew I was leaving on an overnight train to
I was excited to see the Great Pyramids, the last of the original 7 wonders of the world, and
Our next stop was an office which sold camel and horse rides to the Pyramids. I expected to be brought to such a place where I would get ripped off to ensure the tour company earned commission from my overinflated price. Since the wake-up conversation with the hotel manager, I had adopted a defensive mindset. There was still ample time and opportunities to ensure the travel agency didn't get any more of my money. The camel guy put on his happy-go-lucky sales face, made a dumb joke while I was declining sugar with my tea, and made his pitch. I opted for the long tour, but scoffed at the price (somewhere around $80 for about 2 hours). I got dramatic, consulting my guide book by slowly flipping through the pages. I had learned in
Another surprise in the experience was the need for a local guide to take me to the Pyramids, rather than the man I thought was my guide for the day. He gave me some basic information while I was awaiting the camel, but I would've had to pay for his horse too, if he was to join us, so I declined. The local guide didn't speak English nearly as well, but he managed me and the camel well. Besides, as I was about to find, the Great Pyramids are stunning on their own.
Once atop my trusty camel, the guide lead it by the reins and we walked slowly through the back alleys filled with stables. Some of the horses had sores on their backs from saddles, and looked thin and sad. Once we passed through a ticket checkpoint, we hit the sandy desert and the camel ride became a more pleasant experience. We slowly made our way up and over a hill to view the Great Pyramids. Along the way, the guide was patient in allowing me to stop whenever I wanted. He also took great photos, and knew all the silly poses to suggest, making good use of the various perspectives.
I forgot about all the negotiating, and potential overpayments I had made to get to that point, and simply enjoyed the view. Polluted Cairo felt a long ways off, even though it was visible the whole time. I had the opportunity to run up and touch the middle Pyramid, and my guide took me into the tomb of one of the laborers, which was suppose to be “top secret” experience.
We then made our way over to The Sphinx which was much smaller than I expected. Everyone was taking photos pretending to kiss it, but I opted for a standard pose, though I think the gentleman watching me (and possibly waiting his own turn) makes it funny.
On the way back to the camel office, my guide picked up some food from a street stall, and offered me a snack which I gladly accepted. I thoroughly enjoyed the bean-filled pita. At the office, the manager clearly wasn't happy my tour lasted 2.5 hours, even though he had said timing wouldn't matter as I had paid for the “long” tour. I still overpaid, but the extra half hour meant it was within reason.
My guide for the whole day, and driver, then wanted to take me to perfume, alabaster, and papyrus shops but I declined all three, and decided to skip the $10 buffet lunch at a restaurant of their choosing as well. I wanted more street food, but the guide said he avoided it due to stomach problems. Yeah right! They clearly weren't happy with my minimalist approach to the tour.
So we motored toward the Saqquara Pyramids, which until the past few months, were thought to be the oldest in existence. Once there, my guide walked in with me and gave a short talk about the complex, thus earning his keep for the day. I walked around them but they weren't as impressive as the Great Pyramids. I decided to skip the ruins of Memphis, which both the guide and my guidebook described in an unexciting manner.